LAHORE: Punjab Minister for Human Rights and Minority Affairs Ijaz Alam Augustine announced a ‘Minorities’ Empowerment Package’ on Monday wherein new legislation and implementation of existing laws will help the marginalised religious communities of the province.
He also mentioned a taskforce being set up to monitor human rights policies in the province. The minister announced this at an event at Alhamra Arts Council to mark the Human Rights Day in collaboration with Christian Care Foundation.
The empowerment package includes implementation of job and education quotas, sentence remission system, skill development trainings, quota in the Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme and religious education in government schools for children from various faiths.
“We are also focusing on skills development and have kept aside Rs25 million for scholarships. We are also working on development and housing schemes specifically for the minority community,” he added.
Utilisation of the development budget 2018-19 has started through a Minority Development Fund worth Rs450m and, under the Punjab Local Government Act 2013, the department is also ensuring implementation of the by-laws for registration of marriages among the minorities.
Mr Augustine claimed that an action plan had been drafted by the Provincial Task Force on Human Rights to actualise the goals of the Punjab Human Rights Policy 2018. According to the plan, district committees for human rights would be established, which had been approved by the cabinet committee on legislative business.
“We have also established a web-based Complaint Management System designed by the Punjab Information Technology Board for effective communication and resolution of human rights issues,” he said.
Barrister Saeed Nasir, head of the Punjab Treaty Implementation Cell, gave a brief history of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration was a result of the immense collateral damage after the world war and was drafted to avoid a third war. Pakistan had signed and ratified most of the seven conventions of the UN that dealt with human rights, but there was no proper implementation. The functions of the Treaty Implementation Cell included formulation of an effective mechanism for the implementation of the UN Conventions, sustainable development goals and GSP Plus.
Regional Director of Human Rights Lubna Mansoor said that the federal government would ensure protection of human rights. Secretary Asim Iqbal highlighted the department’s progress on the 100-day plan.
Children from Search for Justice presented a special drama highlighting violation of human rights, while schoolchildren also presented a beautiful solo performance.
Parliamentarians Mahendra Pal Singh, Musarrat Cheema, Sumaira Ahmed Bukhari, Asma Bukhari, Sadia Sohail Rana, Mahnaz Rafi, Sumaira Batool, Pastor Anwar Fazal, and Garrison College Vice Chancellor Ubaid Bin Zakaria were also present.
Director of the department, Mohammad Yousuf, said that it was a “unique day” because people from every section of society had come together to promote peace and brotherhood.
At the end of the ceremony, certificates were distributed among activists, schoolchildren and employees of the human rights department. A memorial shield was also presented to the minister.
Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2018